How important is a war-on-terror intelligence asset -- important enough that his clear complicity in genocide should be overlooked? That's the question raised by the presence of a name on certain United Nations documents obtained exclusively by the Prospect.
Here's the story. After many long months of international paralysis on Darfur, the first two weeks of February have seen a flurry of activity that may presage a new global effort to confront the ongoing genocide. U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton pledged to use the month of February, when America has the presidency of the Security Council, to move “fast” and “far” on Darfur.
And on February 6, the 15-member council unanimously supported a U.S. decision to start planning for a possible U.N. peace-keeping force in the region. A week later, Kofi Annan traveled to the White House to discuss Darfur with President George W. Bush. Three days after that, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that she wanted the Security Council to vote to send peace-keepers to the region in the near future. So it would seem that backed by American leadership, the U.N. is finally pressing ahead on Darfur.
But before we heap hosannas on the Bush administration for its newfound resolve, let's wait until the Security Council comes out with a list of Sudanese individuals who are set to be placed under sanction for their role in the genocide. For that moment will be the real test of the Bush administration's determination to prevent the further destruction of Darfur and to hold accountable those guilty of plotting and carrying out the genocide.
The Prospect has obtained a confidential annex to a January 30th Security Council report that identifies the 17 Sudanese individuals whom a panel of U.N. experts concluded were most responsible for war crimes and impeding the peace process. The panel recommends that the council place these men under targeted sanction, that they be banned from international travel, and that their foreign assets be frozen. In addition to the 17, five others are cited as possible future targets for sanctions, including Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir and the President of Chad, Idriss Deby.
The men identified in the annex are the worst of the worst war criminals in a conflict that has claimed hundreds of thousands of civilian lives. And by far the most prominent name of the 17 recommended for immediate sanction is Salah Abdala Gosh.
You may not know that name, but the Central Intelligence Agency certainly does, and Langley won't be thrilled if he is placed under an international travel ban. He is the director of Sudan's National Security and Intelligence Services. And when Osama bin Laden found haven in Sudan from 1990 to 1996, Gosh was his personal government minder. Last year, Ken Silverstein of the Los Angeles Times detailed the extensive counterintelligence cooperation between Gosh and the CIA, and reported that the CIA even flew Gosh to CIA headquarters on a private jet to swap trade secrets.
The quality of the intelligence that the CIA obtains from Gosh is unclear. But what is widely known is Gosh's role in devising Khartoum's counterinsurgency-by-genocide strategy for Darfur. He is Sudan's answer to Heinrich Himmler -- the organizational genius upon which every genocide depends. Gosh is behind the recruitment of the local janjaweed militia; the well-known coordination between government forces and the janjaweed; the harassment of aid workers; and, as the leader of Sudan's security services, he bears responsibility for the arbitrary detentions and torture committed by his officers in Darfur.
Gosh's name, along with the names of the 16 others, have been forwarded to the Security Council's Sudan sanctions committee. It is now up to the member states of the council to approve these names, object to them, or introduce new names of their own. The committee (chaired by Greece) works by consensus. If all 15 members agree to a single set of names, then those names will automatically be included on the final list, and no Security Council vote will be required. So far, China, Sudan's traditional defender on the Security Council, has been more cooperative than usual in the committee. Qatar, however, has raised procedural objections in sanctions committee meetings.
If Gosh stays on the list, then, for starters, the CIA won't be able to fly him to Langley. The United States can purge Gosh's name from the list if it wants to. And there have been a few trickling reports published by Sudan expert Eric Reeves and the International Crisis Group's John Prendergast which mention that the U.S. has tried to protect Gosh from ever appearing on this list. The world, though, will be watching as we either let the 21st century's worst war criminal off the hook or hold him accountable for the unspeakable atrocities he orchestrated.
Mark Leon Goldberg is a Prospect writing fellow.